1. This is a second appeal against the order of Additional District Judge, Delhi, dated August 26, 1968.
2. The appellant brought a suit against the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (respondent) for the recovery of Rs.1,690/- on account of compensation for a time switch which was taken away by the officials of the Delhi Electric Supply Undertaking, a branch of the Corporation, on May 6, 1963. and was converted by them to their own use.
2-A. The appellant company carries on the business of printing. They were sanctioned a night load of 30 Kw for use of their Press by the Delhi Administration. The Undertaking insisted upon the installation of a time switch as a condition for supply The appellant purchased it at a cost , Rs.1,690/-, This was fitted at the appellant's premises. The undertaking granted the necessary connection. It was used by the appellant for running the press.
3. It appears that later on position of electricity improved. The night load was converted into a regular day load with no restrictions as to the timings during which electricity may be used by the appellant. The time switch became surplus as the night load was converted into a day load, The officials of the undertaking removed the tune switch and took it away. They refused to return it to the appellant. They claimed that it had become their Property.
4. The appellant brought a suit for the return of the time switch and in the alternative for its Price. The Subordinate Judge found that the time switch did not form part of the service line and did not become the defendant's Property. He awarded a decree for Rs.1,500/- with costs.
5. The corporation appealed. The Additional District Judge who heard the appeal set aside the decree and dismissed the appellant's suit. He was of the view that the time switch is a device which is used in the distribution of energy and was a Part of the service line.
6. The only question for decision in this case is: Did the time switch form part of the service line and as such did it become the property of the respondent?
7. At the time the load was sanctioned by the Administration one of the conditions for the supply was
'that the consumer shall provide a time switch at their own cost.'
Another condition of supply was this:
'Note: The service line, notwithstanding that a Portion of the cost has been Paid for by the consumer, shall remain the Property of the Undertaking by whom it is to be maintained. The Undertaking shall reserve the rights to use such service line for the Purpose of supply to other Persons.'
8. This condition means that the service line will be laid by the Undertaking. The appellant will Pay the cost of laying the service line. The service line so laid shall remain the Property of the Undertaking. They can supply electricity to other persons from this service line.
9. The expression 'service line' is defined in Section 2(1) in the Indian Electricity Act of 1910 and in so far as it is material is in these terms:
' 'service line' means any electric supply line through which energy is. or is intended to be supplied . ..............'
'Electric supply line' is defined in Section 2(f) in these terms:
' 'electric supply line' means a wire, conductor or other means used for conveying, transmitting or distributing energy (whether by ever head line or underground cable). together with any casing, coating, covering tube. Pipe or insulator enclosing, surrounding or supporting the same or any part thereof, or any apparatus connected therewith for the purpose of so conveying. transmitting or distributing such energy and includes any support, cross-arm, stay, strut or safety device erected or set up for that purpose '
10. On a conjoint reading of the conditions of supply arid. the definitions of 'service line' and 'electric supply line' as given in the Indian Electricity Act, 1910 it appears that a wire. Conductor or other means used for conveying, transmitting or distributing energy will form part of the electric supply line. It will also include any apparatus connected therewith for the purpose of so conveying, transmitting or distributing energy. Energy is supplied through the electric supply line and the electric supply line is defined in comprehensive terms so as to include a wire, conductor, apparatus etc, in my opinion time switch does not form part of the electric supply line. It is a contrivance which is superposed or superadded to electric supply line so as to regulate and control the supply. The consumer is allowed to use the energy only during specified hours, from 10 p. m. to 8 a. m. In order to see that this is done the Undertaking requires him to put a time switch on the electric supply line. He does it. It does not mean that it becomes a Part of the electric supply line. A device fitted for the purpose of regulation and control of electricity cannot be said to be an apparatus for conveying, transmitting or distributing energy within the meaning of Section 2(f). Even after the Undertaking had removed the time switch the electric supply line remained there as before. It was transmitting energy uninterrupted and unhindered. Now there was no regulator on it.
11. A time switch is a device to control and regulate the hours of supply of energy. It cannot be said to be a device or apparatus used for distributing energy, for energy can be conveyed even without it and in fact it is being supplied to the appellant even after the time switch had, been removed. A time switch is installed only to regulate the hours or period of supply and not to regulate the supply itself. The supply will continue to be transmitted even if there is no time switch. A time switch by itself is not necessary for 'conveying, transmitting or distributing energy'. It is not essential for the purpose of any of those functions. It does not become a part of the service line. Its office is to check the misuse of the energy by the consumer. In order to see that the appellant does not use the energy beyond the hours for which load was sanctioned to him the Undertaking required him to install a time switch at his own cost. It was not essential for transmission or distribution of energy. It was not an integral part of the service line in the sense that its removal would affect the transmission or distribution of the supply of energy to the appellant or any other consumer on that line.
12. The note in the conditions of supply makes the intention clear. It says that the service line though laid at the cost of the consumer shall remain the property of the Undertaking so that it may be used for purpose of supply of energy, to other persons. A time switch cannot be used for the purpose of supply to other persons.
13. In my opinion, the first Appellate Court did not correctly interpret the conditions of supply. My conclusion, thereforee, is that the time switch did not become the property of the Undertaking and they had no right to remove it from the Premises.
14. I would allow the appeal. The decree of the first appellate Court is set aside. The decree of the trial Court is restored. The respondent is allowed one month's time to return the time switch to the appellant and if the respondent fails to return it within that period then the appellant will be entitled to recover Rs.1,500/- from the respondent. The appellant will be entitled to costs throughout.
15. Appeal allowed.